Archive for February, 2013

Scouting Comine: Day Four review

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Today the defensive linemen and linebackers were weighed and measured, while the offensive linemen and tight ends ran drills.

Yesterday Kip highlighted an article that discussed Bill Walsh’s ‘ideal defensive tackle’. As we all know by now, Walsh and Pete Carroll are closely connected. The listed height and weight of Walsh’s ideal interior lineman was 6-2 and 290lbs. Sheldon Richardson is 6-2 and 294lbs officially. Once again, I refer to Kip:

I think Richardson will probably go in the top 14 picks- I just can’t see him getting past Carolina barring a disaster.  Richardson stands so far ahead of his peers at collapsing the pocket that I’d say he’s worth trading up for, even though it will mean losing picks in a draft where a 2nd rounder feels an awful lot like a 1st.

Would it be expensive? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not. But I dare anyone to tell me they wouldn’t be excited about seeing Sheldon Richardson lining up in Seattle’s defensive line for the next few years.

Defensive lineman – height, weight, arm length

Ziggy Ansah – 6-5, 271lbs, 35.18′ arms

Armonty Bryant – 6-4, 263lbs, 35.68′ arms

Tank Carradine – 6-4, 276lbs, 34.68′ arms

Quinton Dial – 6-5, 318lbs, 34.48′ arms

Sharrif Floyd – 6-3, 297lbs, 31.68′ arms

Johnathan Hankins – 6-3, 320lbs, 33.08′ arms

Jordan Hill – 6-1, 303lbs, 33.48′ arms

Montori Hughes – 6-4, 329lbs, 32.58′ arms

Margus Hunt – 6-8, 277lbs, 33.68′ arms

John Jenkins – 6-4, 359lbs, 34.08′ arms

Datone Jones – 6-4, 283lbs, 32.68′ arms

Dion Jordan – 6-6, 248lbs, 33.78′ arms

Corey Lemonier – 6-3, 255lbs, 34.48′ arms

Bennie Logan – 6-2, 309lbs, 34.08′ arms

Star Lotulelei – 6-3, 311lbs, 33.58′ arms

Barkevious Mingo – 6-4, 241lbs, 33.68′ arms

Alex Okafor – 6-5, 264lbs, 33.78′ arms

Kawann Short – 6-3, 299lbs, 34.68′ arms

Bjoern Werner – 6-3, 266lbs, 33.28′ arms

Brandon Williams – 6-1, 335lbs, 32.58′ arms

Jesse Williams – 6-3, 323lbs, 32.08′ arms

Sylvester Williams – 6-3, 313lbs, 33.48′ arms

Linebackers – height, weight

Arthur Brown – 6-0. 241lbs

Zaviar Gooden – 6-1, 234lbs

Khaseem Greene – 6-1, 241lbs

Jarvis Jones – 6-2, 245lbs

Kevin Minter – 6-0, 246lbs

Alec Ogletree – 6-2, 242lbs

Manti Te’o – 6-1, 241lbs

If I’ve missed any players out that you want to check up on, Walter Football has the full listings here.

Kawann Short had the most eye-catching weight — he certainly didn’t look like a 299lbs defensive tackle on tape. He appears to be slimming down to fit into a more orthodox three-technique role. He won’t do drills tomorrow due to injury.

It was good to see Dion Jordan close to 250lbs after some speculation he’d played the 2012 season at closer to 230lbs. I think as the draft process continues, he’ll develop into a top-five shoe-in. Incredible upside. He should test well tomorrow.

Sharrif Floyd had considerably shorter arms than the other defensive linemen — 31.68 inches to be exact. As a comparison, that’s three inches shorter than Kawann Short. None of the lineman listed above had arms shorter than 32 inches in length apart from Floyd. This could be an issue when he tries to disengage and gain leverage. He wasn’t a great pass rusher at Florida.

Oklahoma tackle puts on a clinic, Fluker struggles

Lane Johnson can feel pretty good about his time in Indianapolis. He ran an impressive 4.72 today, managed 28 reps on the bench press despite +35 inch arms and overall looked the part of a franchise left tackle. Any team that misses out on Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel can feel very comfortable about Johnson as the fall back.

It’s pretty pointless concentrating too much on offensive line forty times on the whole. None of the other tackles or guards got close to Johnson, apart from Arkansas Pine-Bluff’s Terron Armstead who managed a 4.71.

Looking back at the footage of today’s drills, D.J. Fluker continues to concern me. He ran a 5.35 and a 5.32 but generally looked sloppy in the mobility drills despite losing 16lbs since the Senior Bowl. He’s managed to generate some hype since the SEC Championship game where he dominated Georgia’s defensive line. I’m not convinced it was totally warranted. He’s still a bog standard right tackle who’ll be better off moving inside to guard — at least in my opinion. Watching him struggle to get around today just highlights how much he’s going to struggle defending the edge — something that flashed on tape time and time again. He doesn’t play well against speed. He’ll be challenged by speed every week in the NFL and I’d be worried about that.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to take a guy who might work out at right tackle in round one. If I’m drafting him that early, I have to believe he can be an all-pro guard. Personally, I’d probably rather draft Larry Warford to fill that role. I have a real dislike for drafting right tackles in round one. Seattle’s experience with James Carpenter being a classic example. I was a big fan of Carpenter in college, much more so than Fluker. But the Seahawks drafted Carpenter, were forced to kick him inside when he struggled at tackle and then replaced him with a former 5th round pick.

You don’t need to spend big on a right tackle. And Fluker isn’t good enough to be the exception. I hope he’s off the board by #25, because it means a better player will be available for the Seahawks.

Speaking of Warford, he ran an epic 5.53 and a 5.68 today. Part of me hoped that was a shirtless attempt, just for old times sake. Chance Warmack wasn’t much better at 5.55 and 5.53 — not that it matters in the slightest. Warmack will be a fantastic guard at the next level.

Tony Pauline believed Jonathan Cooper outperformed Warmack, while Eric Fisher was also getting the better of Luke Joeckel:

I thought Cooper had a fantastic work out today and if he gets out of the top fifteen, whoever drafts him is getting a steal. He can probably play either of the guard positions or center. Teams value the center position strongly these days, almost as much as left tackle. That could give him an edge versus Warmack.

Tight ends fail to impress

I thought it was a bitterly disappointing day for the tight ends in the forty yard dash. None of them ran as fast as expected. Zach Ertz only managed a 4.76, Gavin Escobar a 4.84, Jordan Reed a 4.72 and Tyler Eifert a 4.68. In the last three years, thirteen tight ends have run faster than Eifert who was among the quickest this year. Lane Johnson at 303lbs ran faster than Ertz and Escobar and matched Jordan Reed’s time. Take that in for a moment. Can Johnson catch?

I doubt the lousy times will hurt the tight ends too much, but what it won’t do is vault any of them into the top half of round one. If Reed managed a time in the 4.5’s he could’ve become a legit first round option. He runs in the 4.7’s and probably settles somewhere in rounds two or three. Had Ertz managed a 4.5, he could’ve been a lock for the top-20. He might still go in that range given his career at Stanford and solid tape. Eifert remains firmly in the round two range for me.

What about Escobar? His stock seemed to be trending upwards in a big way and I had him in round one recently. However, a 4.84 isn’t going to get anyone out of their seat. He’s a dynamic, big target. But he’s clearly not an insane athlete. His best asset is his hands.

Eifert looked the most athletic in terms of physical appearance and I thought Ertz looked a little stiff in drills. Reed overall didn’t show the kind of explosive athleticism I expected to see. And while physically he compares to Aaron Hernandez, I wouldn’t compare the two players based on tape.

Arkansas’ Chris Gragg ran a 4.50. Kudos for him. He’s talented but suffered (like everyone) due to the Razorbacks’ decision to take a year off from taking football seriously in 2012. Vance McDonald managed a 4.69 which is particularly ‘meh’ considering he doesn’t look comfortable catching a football on tape.

You can see all of today’s forty yard dash times by clicking here.

You can watch a full recap of the days drills by clicking here.

Injury news

Another day, another withdrawal. This time Alex Okafor has decided not to run a slow time… errr… I mean rest a hip flexor by not working out. Dallas Thomas will also be absent with a torn labrum — an injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl.

There are also concerns over Arthur Brown’s shoulder injury that kept him from competing in Mobile. He was a last minute withdrawal from the Senior Bowl and didn’t tell anyone in advance that he was hurt. It’s unclear whether he’ll do drills tomorrow.

Jarvis Jones conducted a press conference discussing his spinal stenosis issue. He won’t work out at the combine, a decision which puts a lot of pressure on his pro-day. Just a hunch, but I can’t see Jones being a first round pick at this stage. Too much risk, and he’s clearly hiding by not testing in Indianapolis.


 

Day four links

Danny Kelly notes that Markus Wheaton managed 20 reps of the bench press at 5-11 and 189lbs. In other words, nearly as many as massive lineman Travis Frederick. Wheaton is incredibly underrated. Just like DeAndre Hopkins and Steadman Bailey. We’ll see if size matters in April.

Mike Mayock gives his thoughts on the first day of drills.

Manti Te’o faced the media today. I wonder what they asked him about?

Tomorrow I’ll be live blogging throughout the defensive lineman/linebacker drills. Hope to see you there.

One final note — who allowed Under Armour to dress this year’s prospects like they’re going to a 90’s rave in their underwear?

Why I think linebacker could be an early priority

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Malcolm Smith has been an organizational soldier. But is he a future starter?

Though a follower of the draft for over two decades, 2009 was the first year I started doing tape breakdowns and informing myself about prospects.  Not with Mel Kiper analysis or googled scouting reports, but by watching and evaluating the players myself, while taking cues from analysts I respected.  Before 2009… I wouldn’t claim to be any kind of authority on the draft before that.

With that caveat in place, I have no doubt that the 2013 NFL Draft is the deepest draft I have ever seen.  A few days ago, Mike Mayock made similar comments when he said the 2013 draft was the deepest he’s seen in at least ten years.

No area is deeper in this draft than the wide receiver position.  Approximately ten wide receivers have received a first or second round projection, and that list does not include some of my favorites.  As many as six tight ends have been talked about in that same range.   In the first round, we might be witnessing perhaps the best offensive line group ever.   Mayock has gone so far as to say that the 25th pick is going to feel a lot like the 5th overall pick this year.  That surplus of talent will push into the middle rounds as well, because you probably won’t see ten of the first sixty picks being receivers, six tight ends in the first sixty, and so on.

In a draft that is almost unbelievable in it’s reserves, one position stands out as the exception:  Linebacker.  Even at the top, this isn’t a great linebacker class.  I’d take Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, Dont’a Hightower and Mychal Kendricks over any linebacker this year.  What’s really striking to me is how few “fast” linebackers there are in this group that are quality prospects.  To be sure, there are some gems out there later on- I’ll cover them in a future post- but they’ll likely be snatched up quickly and it won’t be long until you’re sifting through ashes just hoping to find this year’s version of Korey Toomer or Malcolm Smith.

It’s something that rival head coach Jeff Fisher brought up at the combine during his media session yesterday, although his complaints centered around a lack of inside linebackers and linebackers with size.  I would agree with Fisher, except I am not lamenting a lack of big linebackers, but a lack of truly fast ones that fit Pete Carroll’s mold well enough.

John Schneider had his own presser of course, and he said something that I found interesting.  He talked about his process of upgrading over parts of the roster and specifically name checked Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith.

This name drop interested me because it implied that Malcolm Smith is a starter.  Malcolm Smith is fast, he’s smart, and he’s a more of a football player than an athlete- and he’s a good athlete.  But he’s never been a full time starter, in large part to his being 6’0″ and just 226 pounds.  Though a standout at USC, Smith was injured constantly, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising given his size.  The only comparably sized player to be a long term starter in recent years that I know of is Cato June (6’0″, 225 pounds), who had just five starting seasons in seven years before retiring.  Though a very good player, the scarcity of similar success stories and the brevity of his career suggests that he was an exception that proved the rule.

In a league where 240 pounds is considered preferable for 4-3 linebackers and 230 pounds is treated as a cutoff point, it strikes me as a tough sell to walk into next season banking on Malcolm Smith as your starter all season (and postseason) long. This is no slam on Smith, who I think is one of the teams very best backups.  But players of his size typically remain backups.

Maybe Seattle would start him anyway.  Maybe a weak linebacker class could scare them more than a 226 pound player with 3 NFL starts and an extensive injury history in college.  Maybe they bring Leroy Hill back for one final season.  Maybe.  But I doubt it.

I’m open minded, and I won’t tell anyone there is a right and wrong answer on this.  But I would guess that Seattle is hunting for another starter at linebacker this offseason.  A fast one.  If you want a starter caliber player in this draft, you will probably have to grab that player in the first four rounds.  If you want a difference maker, someone like Alec Ogletree, Khaseem Greene or Arthur Brown, and he’s there at #58, you almost have to take him.  I do not think Seattle will go so far as to draft a linebacker with their first pick, but if they did, I’d understand why: they might not get another chance.  Certainly, if a top option remains at #58, I expect they’d rush to the podium.

Fortunately for us, 4-3 weakside linebackers are rarely drafted in the first round.  It’s happened just once in the previous three drafts (Sean Witherspoon in 2010).  Some of these players, such as Alec Ogletree, might be considered as 3-4 inside linebackers and get taken early as a result, as was the case for Dont’a Hightower last year.  Tony Pauline’s big board lists Arthur Brown 40th overall and has Khaseem Greene (funny enough) 58th overall- the same spot as Seattle’s 2nd round pick.

Finally, there is one other factor to consider.  I can’t link a source or anything, but I’ve heard third-hand that John Schneider grades his entire roster with a numbering system and makes draft picks based not on the draft grade, but on the upgrade differential of his starters and that draft grade.  I can’t imagine that Malcolm Smith carries a very high starter grade- I’m not even sure he’s a starter at all.  It’s hard to envision Seattle ignoring that as they work through the very early rounds, especially if a great value presents itself in round two.

Scouting Combine: Day Three

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Today the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs were measured, weighed and interviewed.

DeAndre Hopkins was the main positive of the day for me. At 6-1 and 214lbs, he also has ten inch hands, 33 inch arms and an 80-inch wingspan. For a guy who doesn’t look all that big on tape, those are some impressive numbers. The perception has been — Hopkins is a smaller receiver, Keenan Allen and Cordarrelle Patterson are bigger targets. It’s time we changed that perception.

Allen only measured an inch taller (6-2) and he was 8lbs lighter. He has the same size hands but shorter arms (32 inches). Cordarrelle Patterson is 2lbs heavier than Hopkins, 7/8’s of an inch taller but has smaller hands (10 inches vs 9 inches) and smaller arms (33 inches vs 31 inches). There’s very little between the three players in terms of size and on this evidence, it’s no surprise that Hopkins has been the more consistent target with those hands and reach.

Allen won’t do any drills in Indianapolis due to lingering injury concerns. Patterson will undoubtedly run a terrific forty yard dash. It’ll be very interesting to see how Hopkins matches up for pure speed.

Tavon Austin came in at 5-8 and 174lbs. Dexter McCluster was 5-8 and 172lbs in 2010. We’ll see if Austin can run faster than McCluster’s 4.58 on Sunday. There were no surprises with Robert Woods (6-0, 201lbs), Terrance Williams (6-2, 208lbs) or Steadman Bailey (5-10, 193lbs) — although it’s worth noting that Bailey has ten inch hands and comparable arm-length to the taller Keenan Allen. I’m going to keep saying it, Hopkins and Bailey are the two best receivers in this class in my opinion. And Bailey might be the most underrated player overall.

Justin Hunter is the only big-name receiver to show above average height — he’s listed at 6-4 and 196lbs (needs to add weight). Pete Carroll showed up at Robert Woods’ press conference, having previously recruited him for USC. No, this doesn’t mean the Seahawks are necessarily going to draft him.

You can see a full press conference with Pete Carroll at the combine by clicking here.

Keep an eye on Ryan Swope this weekend. He doesn’t have great size at 6-0 and 205lbs but if he runs well, he could really boost his stock. He’s a natural receiver with a knack for making clutch plays.

Da’Rick Rogers measured at 6-2, 217lbs with 33 inch arms and 9.5 inch hands. No issues there. I’ve added 2011 tape at the bottom of this piece so you can see him in action for Tennessee. However, it’s the same old concerns with Rogers. He had multiple failed drugs tests with the Vols, constantly tested the patience of his coaches and didn’t heed any warnings. Eventually, he was shown the door and had to move to Tennessee Tech.

Seattle’s receiver coach Kippy Brown was part of the Tennessee staff during the recruitment and will know all about the player — possibly better than anyone in the NFL not named Derek Dooley. The Seahawks will get a unique insight into his character, attitude and ability. Brown left for the Pacific Northwest before Rogers took the field as a true freshman, but he’ll know enough to offer an educated opinion. The interview process will be huge for Rogers. I still have a hard time buying into him, but then I’m not sitting in on any interviews this weekend. I’m not investigating his background. I’m judging him on previous mistakes. My main concern isn’t that he’ll fail in the NFL. It’s that he might drag others down with him. He has a lot of athletic potential as you’ll see in the video below. But can you trust him?

Matt Barkley came in taller than expected, just a half-inch away from 6-3 while weighing 227lbs. He also had big hands (crucial) at 10.1 inches. Compare that to Geno Smith (6-2, 218lbs, 9 inch hands) and there’s quite a difference. Still, it could be worse — Tyler Wilson has 8.5 inch hands. That will scare off some GM’s. For what it’s worth, 5-8 Tavon Austin has bigger hands than Tyler Wilson, who came in at 6-2, 215lbs. Ryan Nassib (6-2, 227lbs) and E.J. Manuel (6-4 237lbs) both have a chance to show off some physical skills this weekend.

Barkley also delivered a confident press conference, batting away concerns about his arm strength and speaking with the kind of authority teams want from a franchise quarterback. “I”m strong enough to make every throw and move in the pocket.”

You can see Barkley’s combine press conference by clicking here.

Eddie Lacy won’t run the forty yard dash due to a hamstring injury, but it was concerning to see him at 5-11 and 233lbs. In one of the more bizarre admissions so far this week, he told the media, “I might have gained a pound or three” since the end of the season. Nice one, Eddie. Marcus Lattimore on the other hand is on a major charm offensive, coming in at 5-11 and 221lbs. He’s a fantastic public speaker and will be among the best interviews at the combine. It’s difficult not to root for Lattimore.

See Marcus Lattimore’s press conference by clicking here.

Montee Ball (5-10, 214lbs), Giovani Bernard (5-8, 202lbs), Andre Ellington (5-9, 199lbs), Jonathan Franklin (5-10, 205lbs), Joseph Randle (6-0, 204lbs), Stepfan Taylor (5-9, 214lbs) and Mike Gillislee (5-11, 208lbs) will all be jostling for draft position this weekend in a tight running back group.

The offensive lineman took on the bench press today and will kick off the drills tomorrow. Jonathan Cooper had an impressive 35 reps at 225lbs. Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher managed 27 reps, D.J. Fluker and Travis Frederick 21 reps. Lane Johnson had 28 reps despite his long arms and lanky frame (impressive).

You can find all of today’s measurements and bench press totals by clicking here.

Injury news

Chance Warmack chose not to lift today due to an apparent shoulder injury. Travis Kelce won’t work out at all due to an abdominal tear.

Zach Ertz to run a slow time?

I’m not sure what to make of this news, but it’s surprising. Tony Pauline is reporting Zach Ertz will run a particularly mediocre forty yard dash tomorrow:

I fully expected to be blown away by Ertz, who looked like a dynamic receiver at Stanford. It won’t destroy his stock — Rob Gronkowski only managed a 4.68. He also weighed 9lbs more than Ertz. He’s such a competent pass catcher I can’t see him dropping out of the first round. But if he runs in the 4.7 range he’s much more likely to be around in the late 20’s.

Sam Montgomery’s stock falling

It’s something we’ve talked about already, but according to Pauline, Sam Montgomery is not getting any help from the LSU coaches:

He will fall. I’m surprised to see him still appearing in first round mock drafts. If his college coaches aren’t willing to bang the table for him, who in their right mind will do it in a NFL war room? Remember this picture?

Combine links

Daniel Jeremiah talks about Seattle’s options at #25. He believes getting a receiver for Russell Wilson would be a wise move and name checks DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. He also admits the depth at receiver is so good, there will be options in rounds two or three. As much as I like Hopkins, I’m not convinced the team will necessarily go for a receiver in round one. The options in round two could be incredible. The defensive options in rounds two and three are not as attractive.

Jeremiah also states “everybody” in the NFL has Sharrif Floyd ranked as a sure-fire top-five pick. Welcome to Jacksonville, Sharrif.

James Dator ponders the possibility of the draft being moved to May. I do not like this idea.

Bill Polian voices concerns over Tavon Austin’s size. “Great college player… great athlete… size worries you.”

Final thoughts and looking ahead

I’d recommend checking out Kip’s piece today highlighting what Bill Walsh looked for in a defensive tackle and how this relates to the Seahawks. I’m now going back and re-assessing every evaluation I made about this defensive tackle class as a consequence of reading it. Funnily enough, I started with Johnathan Hankins at Ohio State and I’ve already adjusted my view on him. I’ll go into more detail another day after the combine.

Tomorrow I’ll be away with work so will post an open thread for people to discuss the offensive line and tight end drills. When I get in I’ll watch the replay and make a few notes so stay tuned for that. On Sunday and Monday I’ll be live-blogging throughout the workouts involving the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive lineman and linebackers. Instant results and commentary. Hope to see you there.

Da’Rick Rogers tape vs Cincinnati, LSU, Georgia and Florida

The Bill Walsh defensive tackle

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

If you are a fan of well written articles and an evaluator who just “gets it”, I’d recommend The Rookie Scouting Portfolio by Matt Waldman.  I like him personally because I watch tape on prospects and invariably come to the same conclusions he does.  Like me, he’s one of a few charter members of the Russell Wilson NFL fanclub that staked their claim before last season.  If you read the Studying the Asterisk article that made the rounds last year, then you are already familiar with his work.  I guess this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but do yourself a favor and bookmark his blog if you haven’t already.  It’s great.

I try to check in with his site every couple of weeks. It’s useful as a double check for my own analysis; to see if there are nuances he picked up that I missed.  It was during my most recent visit that I noticed a link to a peculiar draft website that has apparently gotten a lot of pub in social media circles.  The site is titled “Bill Walsh: How I Evaluate Each Position.”  The site is a clever idea- a compilation of various written analyses by Walsh covering every starting position.  Walsh, one of the greatest and most influential NFL coaches of all time, was an intellectual above all else, and his analysis remains relevant all these years later.

As Danny Kelly is fond of pointing out, Pete Carroll is a bit of a Bill Walsh protege, having been San Francisco’s defensive coordinator in the mid-90s while Walsh served as a consultant.  In Win Forever, Pete Carroll says himself that Bill Walsh was a major influence in how he evaluates and handles his players, specifically at quarterback.  That proved valuable as Carroll mentored one star quarterback after another at USC, only to see most of them flounder when leaving Carroll’s side for the NFL.  Reading Bill Walsh talk about quarterbacks, you’d think he was talking future tense about Russell Wilson, when he’s actually talking past tense about Wilson’s boyhood idol, Joe Montana.

I’ve often thought that Carroll was the 21st century equivalent of Walsh:  brilliant, unique, creative, and easy to learn from.  His boyish exuberance stems not from some mystical fountain of youth, but a mind that never tires of new ideas and new challenges.  Walsh was stern if not prickly, but his passion for the game burned just the same.  Both have proven masters at building dynastic rosters on the fly from spare parts and savvy drafting.  If you know where to look, you can see Walsh’s fingerprints in many of the things that Pete has done.

I can’t say for sure if Pete and Bill would see eye to eye on defensive tackles, although reading Walsh’s breakdown of the position, it sounded exactly like the kind of player the Seahawks need:

Ideal size: 6-2, 290

Must have the girth, strength, ballast to hold off the guard, or to step into a tackles’ block without being knocked off the line of scrimmage.

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.

You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.

The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. (emphasis mine) They won’t have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability.

On a few occasions already, Rob has highlighted pass rush at defensive tackle as Seattle’s biggest need.  Derek Stephens voiced similar sentiments at his blog during his roster analysis.  But here is where I interject: with respect to Seattle’s needs, guys that can provide production from the interior are extremely rare and ridiculously valuable.  The Seahawks registered 36 sacks last season, tied with Buffalo for 18th in the NFL.  They were 16 sacks behind the league leaders Denver and St. Louis.  If the ultimate goal is to reach the 50 sack plateau, Seattle has a long way to go, and even Geno Atkins wouldn’t add 16 sacks on his own.  The Seahawks actually produced 9 total sacks from the defensive tackle position last season anyway- so it’s not like the group was a pile of crap by any means.

Of course, there is so much more to pressure than sacks, and this might be more true at defensive tackle than anywhere else.  Which is good, because I really doubt we are finding an interior 10+ sack a year monster in this draft class.  If a scheme is built to have the 3-tech play the role of the cleanup hitter, it wont work unless you have a hall of famer at that spot.

But Walsh ends his analysis with something hopeful.  Most people judge a 3-tech by how often he’s getting into the backfield: how many sacks and tackles for loss he accumulates.  Walsh says the great defensive tackles aren’t racking up stats, but rather they are pushing the guard into the quarterback and forcing him to move.  John Schneider, when talking about Bruce Irvin in his combine interview today, also used that term.  He specifically mentioned that Irvin was forcing the quarterback to move.  (On a related note, he singled out Jason Jones as a free agent they want to “keep an eye on” in free agency).

I really doubt we’ll find the next Geno Atkins this year, but we might find a component pass rusher: a player that can be the table setter.  Finding the next Derek Wolfe might prove to be enough.  Not enough to reach 52 sacks of course, but a positive first step in that direction.

Here are how some of the best defensive tackle options stack up as pocket pushers:

Star Lotulelei:

Though inconsistent and under-developed, I’d wager that Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn salivate when thinking about what they could do with Lotulelei’s raw ability.  I saw one play against USC’s stellar run blocking line where he drove back a double team straight backward and pancaked both blockers- and this was on a rushing attempt.  I have literally never seen that before.

Lotulelei is quick off the snap and possesses near Suh levels of pure strength.  He tends to keep his arms locked on the target and seems almost completely foreign to the basics of arm technique: almost no attempts to body control, yanking to defeat balance, rips or swims.  He seems perfectly content to treat most guards like lineman sleds.  And often, it works.

At Utah, Lotulelei was not a consistent pocket collapsing force.  He could be in the pros.  He has by far the most untapped potential at the position in the 2013 draft.  He will likely be a top five overall selection, and barring a buddy-buddy trade with Jacksonville at #2, I really doubt we’d have a shot at him.  And yes, that trade would cost way more than just Matt Flynn.

Sharrif Floyd:

Floyd is a lean 303 pounds and probably the best pure athlete in this DT class.  (I consider Ansah to be a 5-tech with interior versatility).  Floyd’s first step and arm use are median level at best compared to his peers, but he still creates pressure by never giving up.  He never stands still or concedes- his constant thrashing and fighting reminds me of watching a rodeo bull.

Floyd tracks the ball very well and I’d easily say that he’s better against the run than he is at disrupting the pass.  After watching several of his games, I wasn’t shocked at all to learn that he’s tallied just 4.5 sacks over 3 seasons.  Floyd just isn’t a very good pass rusher, despite being a gifted and versatile athlete.  Reminds me of Kentwan Balmer when he came out of North Carolina in that regard, though I think Floyd will have a better career.

Florida mixed 3-4 and 4-3 looks.  I saw Floyd play every position possible on both of those fronts, which is pretty impressive.  He has long, strong arms and can disengage from run blocks well enough that I think he can make a good NFL career as a run stopper, which is why I think he needs to play either a 5-tech or a 3-4 defensive end position in the NFL.  Playing in such a role gives him more space to use his athleticism, and doesn’t require him to bag tons of sacks to be considered good.  I think his hype level is a little out of control, but then again 3-4 defensive ends have been known to go early and there aren’t a ton of them at the top this year.  The former GM who first highlighted Floyd as a top 10 pick was Scott Pioli, who drafted a 3-4 defensive end himself in the top three picks just 4 years ago.

Sheldon Richardson:

Richardson is a well balanced defensive tackle who’s most prominent feature is his speed and pursuit capability.  Mike Mayock might have said it best when he observed that Richardson moves like a linebacker at the defensive tackle position.  Richardson is a red-ass that keeps after the play even when it’s far away from him, and can be seen chasing down tackles from 20 or more yards away several times a game.  He collapses the pocket by far the most often out of the known 2013 defensive tackle options, mostly because guards cede so much ground out of respect for his speed and explosiveness.

I had to retire from Division II because of people who played the game like Richardson does.  I couldn’t protect my body with my short arms and defensive tackles would rip me forward to execute the swim move and I just couldn’t stop it.  Ceding ground with a backpedal helped, because it’s harder to swim someone when they are moving away from you.  Of course, doing so came at a cost as I was essentially walking the defensive player into the pocket.  This is why a pocket can only last so long, as guards and tackles are often ceding ground strategically while protecting themselves from their assignments next sudden attack.

This is what Richardson does to guards.  He has a strong upper body with violent arms, and guards have to respect his quick step and ability to crash a gap with his speed.  I tallied a very high number of plays where Richardson got 3 yards deep in the pocket in little time despite doing very little to earn it because the guard was appeasing him with real estate.

Richardson only had 4 sacks last season, and just 2 sacks the season before, but those stats don’t tell the story of how he impacts the pocket.  He had a ton of near sacks and quarterback hits, too.

I think Richardson will probably go in the top 14 picks- I just can’t see him getting past Carolina barring a disaster.  Richardson stands so far ahead of his peers at collapsing the pocket that I’d say he’s worth trading up for, even though it will mean losing picks in a draft where a 2nd rounder feels an awful lot like a 1st.

Kawann Short:

Short is maybe the draft’s “craftiest” defensive tackle- an expert at exploiting mistakes and sneaking through the smallest of gaps to gain backfield penetration.  He’s particularly effective on running plays against a zone blocking scheme.  Zone blocking scheme tends to move it’s blockers one direction in unison like a wave.  Short seems to have figured out a way to jump those gaps at the start of those runs, as I saw him break into the backfield far more against zone runs than anything else.

Short has by far the best college production among this group (excluding Brandon Williams from Division II), posting six or more sacks each of the last three seasons, with 49.5 total tackles for loss during that span.  And until I read that Bill Walsh analysis, Short was my favorite defensive tackle in this draft.

The problem with Short is that despite his polish and skill, he’s more of a mistake exploiter than a pocket collapser.  He’ll scatter a few quality plays from time to time, but I would estimate that he pushes the pocket with about half the frequency that Sheldon Richardson does.

I see Short as an excellent option for a 4-3 team that likes to blitz.  Spread the blocking lanes out with blitzers and he’ll exploit that extra space.  Problem is, Carroll’s late season actions indicate that he wants to reduce his blitz count going forward and rely on a four man base rush instead.  Since Pete has come here, he’s had to blitz to get sack production and guys like Irvin and Clemons have typically struggled without that boost.  Drafting Short will give us a weapon, but it might also increase our dependency on the blitz to get the most out of him.

Or to put it another way, I see Short as a guy that is a clean up hitter more than a table setter.  He doesn’t make the players around him better per se, but if you help him out a little, he’ll get you some production.

Sylvester Williams:

Williams is a complete defensive tackle who at times can be quite dominant.  He’s bigger than most 3-techs at 313 pounds, and holds up very well against the run with a strong anchor and good rush awareness.  He could easily transition to the 1-tech if needed, or Red Bryants “big 5-tech” role for that matter.  That versatility holds a lot of appeal for John Schneider who prizes versatile players, so it should hardly be a shock that a Seahawks scout was seen talking to Williams at the Senior Bowl.  If Seattle allows Branch to leave in free agency it could potentially telegraph an intention to select Williams, as there aren’t a ton of versatile defensive tackles in this draft that are quality options.

Williams’ best asset is his fast first step, which is by far his best tool for achieving penetration and push.  Brandon Mebane once had 5 sacks playing as a run stuffing 1-tech in 2008.  He did it because a 310+ pound man that explodes into a gap before you’ve even fully left your stance is something that’s really hard to stop.  Mebane’s 2008 season was so impressive that Seattle moved Mebane to the 3-tech hoping to optimize his talent during the following two seasons.  It didn’t work out, and drafting a similar player like Williams carries the risk of repeating history.

Which isn’t to say that having an excellent first step is a bad thing, and fortunately Williams also possesses a strong upper body and active hands.  Yet strangely, for a player with size, power, fast hands and fast feet, Williams does not push the pocket as often as I would have expected.  With Williams you know whether he will be successful or not within the first second.  If he doesn’t succeed exploding into a gap and a chance for a swim move doesn’t present itself, he’s often content with a stonewall.  It may be partially due to his short arms- which are just 32 ⅝” long.  When I watch Williams I see a lot of effort with his hands but not a corresponding amount of results.

Williams is a good, well rounded player, and displays I think the best awareness of any defensive tackle in the draft- rarely will you see a defender that can sniff out and anticipate a screen faster than Williams can.  I see him as being a long term quality starter in the Alan Branch mold, but not a difference maker in the pass rush and not a consistent pocket collapser.

Brandon Williams:

Brandon Williams is the most unique defensive tackle in the draft.  Looking like a “chiseled” 340 pounds, Williams is a better athlete than most players his size.  Based on what I saw of him during the Senior Bowl and practices, he has a fast first step and at time shows the best pure power in the draft outside of Lotulelei.

What surprised me the most was how good his arms were- he is surprisingly one of the best defensive tackles in the draft at shedding blocks with his sudden arm moves and substantial upper body strength.  What surprised me even more was how bad he was against the run despite weighing 340 pounds.  He can get bulldozed by double teams and pushed back even by single blocks, often because of high pad level and an inability to easily locate the ball while being drive blocked.

You would think at 340 pounds Williams would be a pure nose tackle, but his strengths and weaknesses align ironically with the 3-tech role instead.  Williams played mostly 3-tech for Missouri Southern, a Division II school, and currently holds his school’s all time sack record with 29 sacks over 3 seasons.  Williams was up and down at the Senior Bowl, though he turned heads with a strong final day of practice.  People often say that Senior Bowl practice matters more to evaluators than the game itself, and that strong practice has helped remove some of the level of competition fears surrounding him.  It’s been enough for some to suggest he could be a potential top forty pick, and it’s considered unlikely that he’ll get out of the 3rd round.

Williams is a strange prospect, and Carroll does like “unique” talents.  Yet as the slowest member of this defensive tackle group I’m not sure how Carroll would react to that; since he worships speed.  Bill Walsh was pretty big on speed too, and in fact it was a crushing defeat to Walsh’s team during Pete’s early coaching days that served as the formative moment of that philosophy.  At least, that’s how Pat Kirwan remembers it.

I’m not sure if Williams fits, but he can push the pocket better than most, and is a better pure pass rusher with his technique than you would think.

Jordan Hill:

Hill isn’t very big nor does he anchor well, but he is probably good enough against drive blocks to be a non-specialist defensive tackle.  He partially makes up for this by being consistently very fast off the snap, and keeps a good pad level.

Hill’s uses his arms a lot like a 3-4 defensive end would, excelling at disengaging via extension, not unlike Greg Scruggs but with shorter, weaker arms.  He has excellent backfield vision and tracks the ball well.  If I had to highlight Hill for being the best at anything out of this group, I think he might have the best short area quickness.  He can cover two yards side to side very fast, and despite being weak to interior drive blocks he’s actually an asset against slower developing stretch runs because he can disengage and cover short areas of grass very quickly.  Not only is he very quick, but he’s exceptionally instinctive and knows where to move to keep a runner in front of him while keeping his shoulders square.

Unfortunately, Hill can’t seem to use his shed ability to actually swim past defenders, which I theorize is from a lack of functional upper body strength.  If he had it, I think he’d be using it.  He also lacks lower body strength and is impotent as a bull rusher.

Hill is a bit like Kawann-Short-lite as a 3-tech.  He can sometimes slip through exploitable mistakes but he doesn’t force guards back.  He could be a serviceable 3-tech, but not a star.  I like him more as a 3-4 defensive end, where he can use his quickness around the edge more and will get more mileage out of his talent for two-gapping and reading the football.  Then again, Hill stands just 6’1″ and doesn’t appear to have the longest arms, so he’d be a bit of a gamble in such a role.  Those factors might explain why he’s expected to be drafted in the mid to late rounds despite having some talent.

So who’s the best?

I would say that the only great pocket collapsing defensive tackle in this draft is Sheldon Richardson, and I’d say he’s far ahead of second place.  I think Star Lotulelei comes next, followed by Brandon Williams, Sylvester Williams, Kawann Short, Sharrif Floyd and Jordan Hill.  Every one of these players has something he’s special at, but Richardson is the guy who will disrupt the passing game the most.  His speed is a huge bonus for our speed obsessed front seven as well.

Walsh’s criteria is illuminating when it comes to sorting the great players from the good ones.  I could envision scenarios where all of these options could become worthwhile component pass rushers, with Richardson being the clear best choice to be an impact player for Pete Carroll’s needs.  I think Short grades out better overall than his ability to push the pocket indicates, and could be a great pick if Seattle is willing to design a more aggressive defense that can create enough confusion for Short to exploit mistakes and hesitation.

Seahawks show interest in small school tight end B.J. Stewart

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I’m working on a piece covering the defensive tackle class, which I should have posted very late tonight.  In the meantime, PatrickH mentioned this article in the comments yesterday which links the Seahawks to Cumberland University tight end B.J. Stewart:

Stewart came to CU as a wrestler, reaching the No. 1 ranking in the nation in the heavyweight division for two weeks during the 2009-10 academic year. He posted a 40-24 overall mark in two years and finished his sophomore season ranked 10th nationally…

“NFL scouts love former wrestlers. If he had played four years at even a Division II school, he might be up there on some mock draft lists right now…”

Three scouts called me from Montgomery after watching him practice there. The Seahawks have shown the most interest and have been on him the longest, but I’ve recently sent film to the Falcons and the Lions…

After starting two years at defensive end, Stewart led the 2012 Bulldogs with 21 receptions for 396 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 18.9 yards per catch.

There are some videos of Stewart on youtube.  I remember watching game film in high school that was filmed better, but if you have a lot of patience it’s out there.  Stewart is even skinnier looking than this 6’5″ 253 listing indicates- I’m going to assume that Seattle probably views him as a Joker/H-back type.  Could be a player to watch in the very late rounds or undrafted free agency.

Scouting combine preview

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

You’re going to hear a lot of people say the scouting combine doesn’t matter. For me, it’s one of the best events in the football calendar.

A case in point… did anyone know a great deal about a running back from East Carolina until he showed up at the combine in 2008? He ran in the 4.2’s and suddenly was being talked about as a possible first round pick. That guy was Chris Johnson. The fact he ran such a blistering time wasn’t enough exclusively to qualify him as a first rounder, but it motivated a heck of a lot of people to go and find some East Carolina game tape. And it just so happens he looked the part. It’s no surprise he recorded a 2000-yard season even if he’s since gone a bit off the rails. The combine raised Johnson’s profile and everyone was better for it.

Some drills like the gauntlet (where receivers are actively encouraged to catch and drop a series of passes) are completely pointless and waste everyone’s time. That aside, how often do you get an opportunity to put some of college football’s best players together and compare them side by side?

You might have two talented edge rushers with similar grades on your draft board. What if one runs a significantly faster 10-yard split at the combine? That’s vital information there.

We get to measure and test the players specifically, receiving crucial information via measurements, speed and physical prowess. How many times has a school exaggerated on a players height or weight? How many times has a prospect boasted about being able to run a specific time but then failed to live up to expectation?

And most importantly it gives the teams the opportunity to conduct mass interviews with multiple players. We don’t get to hear most of the detail there, but a few bits and pieces will be leaked to the media. It always happens.

Yes, tape will always be the most important factor in judging these players, but the combine is here to stay and that’s a good thing.

The schedule and groupings remain the same as previous years. The different positions are split as follows:

Arrived on Wednesday: Group 1 (kickers, special teams, offensive linemen), Group 2 (offensive linemen), Group 3 (tight ends)

Arrive today: Group 4 (quarterbacks, wide receivers), Group 5 (quarterbacks, wide receivers), Group 6 (running backs)

Arrive on Friday: Group 7 (defensive linemen), Group 8 (defensive linemen), Group 9 (linebackers)

Arrive on Saturday: Group 10 (defensive backs), Group 11 (defensive backs)

Each positional group goes through the following schedule:

Day one: Registration, hospital pre-exam and X-rays, orientation, team interviews

Day two: Measurements, medical exams, media interviews, team interviews

Day three: NFLPA meeting, psychological testing, bench press, team interviews

Day four: On-field workouts

It basically means the special teams players and offensive lineman work out on Saturday. The quarterbacks, receivers and running backs on Sunday, the defensive lineman on Monday and the defensive backs on Tuesday.

You can see a complete list of the participants here.

The offensive linemen and tight ends were weighed and measured today. D.J. Fluker showed up 16lbs lighter than the Senior Bowl (339lbs vs 355lbs). He was probably told by many teams to drop weight. Even though he pulled off 355lbs without too much excess weight, if he wants to play tackle in the NFL he has to get lighter. The one thing Fluker struggles with is the speed rush, which is exactly what he’s going see time and time again at the next level. He has to get lighter on his feet to play tackle, or he’ll have to kick inside to guard.

Chance Warmack was a more  modest than expected 6-2 and 317lbs, while fellow top-15 guard prospect Jonathan Cooper came in at 6-2 and 311lbs. According to Tony Pauline, several teams have Cooper rated above Warmack: “He’s much better blocking in motion compared to Warmack and a natural fit for a zone blocking scheme.  Teams have referred to Cooper as ‘special’ and they feel in time he can add weight, which will only improve his run blocking.” Neither Cooper or Warmack is going to last very long. Top-15? Probably.

Luke Joeckel (6-6, 306lbs), Lane Johnson (6-6, 303lbs) and Eric Fisher (6-7, 306lbs) all have textbook size to play the left tackle position. They could be all gone by San Diego at #11.

Zach Ertz measured at 6-5 and 249lbs. If he runs as well as expected on Saturday, he could go in the top-20. There’s been some hand-wringing about the length of his 34-inch arms, but considering he’ll be more of a receiver than an in-line blocker, I’m not too concerned here. Tyler Eifert (6-5, 250lbs) and Gavin Escobar (6-6, 254lbs) both look the part. Jordan Reed is shorter and smaller at 6-2 and 236lbs but it’s worth noting how similar he is to another former Gator — Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245lbs). Reed will feature in the same role as Hernandez and won’t be used as an orthodox tight end.

Joseph Fauria came in at 6-7 and 259lbs with nearly 11-inch hands. Them’s some big hands. Travis Kelce measured at 6-5, 255lbs.

Injury news

We already knew Keenan Allen, Kawann Short, Matt Barkley and Eddie Lacy wouldn’t work out, but nobody expected Jarvis Jones to bail. Jones suffers with spinal stenosis, an issue that ended his time at USC — not to mention several promising careers in the NFL. Apparently he’s going to focus on his pro-day on March 21st and no reason has been given for his unwillingness to perform at the combine. I can’t see this going down particularly well. Meanwhile, Dee Milliner will undergo shoulder surgery after the combine. He’s suffering with a torn labrum.

John Schneider speaks

The Seahawks GM conducted a press conference at the combine today. You can see all 17:08 minutes of it by clicking here.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on regarding Seattle’s more prominent needs…

Receivers/tight ends

Without any big name receivers guaranteed to go in the top ten, there could be a lot of jostling for draft position this weekend. Cordarrelle Patterson has the chance to propel himself into the top-15. He’s technically quite poor, takes bad angles when trying to catch the ball and hasn’t got the greatest hands, but he’s one of the more dynamic players to enter the league in the last few years. If he runs a 4.3-4.4 or even faster, he’ll be rising on many boards. He’s incredibly elusive on tape, it’ll be interesting to see if that translates to superb straight-line speed.

I think Steadman Bailey will run a quicker time than people expect — probably a quicker time than team mate Tavon Austin. Bailey could be a legit 4.4 guy. Austin needs to prove he’s quick given his complete lack of size. I remember Dexter McCluster running a surprising 4.58 in Indianapolis and despite going in round two, he hasn’t had an impact for the Chiefs. Austin could run a similar time, don’t rule it out. And if he does, there could be some concern he’ll just end up being another undersized ineffective player who needs manufactured production.

At West Virginia, they were constantly trying to find ways to get him the ball in front of the defense. His best quality isn’t speed, it’s elusiveness and the ability to make people miss. He wasn’t a great deep threat for the Mountaineers — that guy was Steadman Bailey. In the end they just put Austin at tailback, something that isn’t going to happen at the next level. I doubt he runs a 4.35 like DeSean Jackson. And given his size, a lack of pure speed will be concerning. Fun player to watch in college, but will his game translate?

DeAndre Hopkins won’t shine and will probably run a 4.5. This isn’t his forte though and he deserves to go in round one regardless of anything happening this weekend. Terrance Williams lacks Hopkins’ technical qualities, but he’s a burner. He should run an electric time. Markus Wheaton has track speed and even beat Oregon’s D’Anthony Thomas in a recent 100m sprint. He will clock a fast time. Robert Woods needs to prove he can fly but I’m not optimistic he’ll do a great deal to help himself this week. Da’Rick Rogers will be a fascinating test case, both in terms of what teams think of his interview technique and his ability to flash as an athlete. Chris Harper at Kansas State is a bit hit and miss on tape, but he’s another player I’ll be watching.

There are three tight ends who should perform very well — Ertz, Escobar and Reed. Ertz proved he can get downfield against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and will look the part running in shorts in Indianapolis. Escobar will run well for his size and could be a first round pick himself. Reed has maybe the biggest opportunity to get his name out there. I remember one catch he made against Texas A&M where he turned on the jets and exploded up-field. I’ve not seen a guy with his size move like that before. How fast can he run? 4.4’s? Keep an eye on his forty yard dash.

Linebackers

Really we’re looking for guys that run above average times and flash plus agility and cover skills. The Seahawks want speed in the front seven. Presuming Leroy Hill isn’t re-signed, they’re probably going to draft a WILL at some point. I suspect Sio Moore, Zaviar Gooden and Jelani Jenkins will all perform well enough to be in contention as mid-round options.

Gooden is the one I’m most interested in. He really looked the part at the Senior Bowl, flying around the field yet still managing to show solid instincts. He looks like a supreme athlete. Who knows where his stock will be if his momentum continues to build. Right now he’s the player I’m focused on the most if the Seahawks don’t draft a linebacker in the first two rounds.

Alec Ogletree will put on a clinic. I have no doubt about that. He’s a naturally gifted athlete and should test well in every department. He also needs a big show to make up for the off-field concerns that continue to linger. So while people are lining up to declare he’ll drop out of round one, I think he’ll do enough in Indianapolis to convince one of Tampa Bay, Cincinnati or St. Louis to take a chance.

For the Seahawks, I’ll be keeping close tabs on Khaseem Greene and Arthur Brown. Both players are athletic enough to impress and flash the necessary speed to be a possible first round WILL. Greene is thicker set and won’t get into the 4.4 range, but he should run a solid 4.5. After all, he has the same bloodlines as Ray Graham. Brown could edge Greene for straight-line speed but is he quite the same kind of impact player? He also had to switch from the WILL back to MLB at Kansas State because he felt more comfortable inside. He was also quite homesick during his time in Miami, provoking his move back to Kansas. Greene on the other hand will be a day one leader and should wow anyone who interviews him in Indianapolis.

Defensive lineman

Depending on how healthy he is, Dion Jordan could put on a masterclass. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how much he weighs — there have been some concerns that he played as low as 230lbs this season at 6-7. He needs to hold his weight and still flash the kind of physical upside that makes you salivate watching tape. Chip Kelly for some reason had him dropping into coverage so often. He’s not bad at it, it’s just you’d like to see him rushing the passer pretty much every down. It certainly impacted his production with just five sacks in 2012. He could be one of the stars of this years combine. I think he’s a top-ten lock.

Ziggy Ansah will be right there alongside Jordan ready to bolster his stock. He’ll test brilliantly in every drill. Ansah is technically raw but he’s a beast. This should be fun to watch.

Barkevious Mingo needs a big weekend. I watched four LSU games over the last few days and came away bitterly disappointed with his tape. He’d flash every now and again, but where’s the spark? The consistency? He doesn’t dominate enough despite playing on a solid LSU front line. His production was poor in 2012 and he’s not an obvious scheme fit at 3-4 OLB or 4-3 end. He might ‘only’ be a LEO. He needs a super-quick ten yard split.

Bjoern Werner won’t test particularly well but shouldn’t see his stock hampered too much — he’s still a pure 4-3 end and should look to re-gain the weight he lost last summer. Damontre Moore’s stock has dropped a bit since the end of the season and he needs to recapture some momentum. Alex Okafor, Margus Hunt, John Simon, Datone Jones, Corey Lemonier… the defensive end groupings will be unmissable. There’s so much to be gained or lost this weekend. Keep an eye on the all-important ten-yard splits, not just the forty yard dash times.

It’s hard to get much out of watching the defensive tackles work out. Again, the ten-yard splits are vital. But the rest? Not so much. I suspect Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd will both have work-outs that confirm their standings among the top-ten picks. Richardson in particular might run a faster than time than any defensive tackle in recent memory. Monitor the big guys to see how they move — Montori Hughes, Brandon Williams, Sylvester Williams, Johnathan Hankins, Jonathan Jenkins, Jesse Williams. The Seahawks might want to keep size along that defensive line if they don’t re-sign Alan Branch, but whoever they draft will need to be an upgrade on what they already had. That means better athleticism and pass rushing potential.

On Jesse Williams, it’s been suggested he could be this years bench-press specialist. He won’t run particularly well and might struggle in some of the movement drills, but he always looked strong on tape. Let’s see if he’s this years answer to Stephen Paea. That’s the player he compares most to.

Cornerbacks

In each draft so far, the Seahawks have taken a corner later on. This will no doubt be the case again this year. They just seem to like stock piling secondary talent. Look out for any tall, lean defensive backs who run well and appear to be able to play physical. I’m going to monitor Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes, Leon McFadden, Robert Alford, Will Davis, Terry Hawthorne, Tharold Simon, Greg Reid and Johnthan Banks.

Out of the group, Mississippi State’s Banks looks like the most likely ‘Seahawks’ type corner. The only problem is, he’s a possible first or second round pick. And I’m not convinced the Seahawks will draft a corner that early, especially given their success rate without spending high picks at corner. It’s almost certain they’ll take one at some stage, though.

The other positions

Menelik Watson could be the offensive lineman who benefits the most this week. He’s got a little Bruce Campbell to his game, but he’s a lot more technically polished despite how relatively new he is to the game. Expect the three big name tackles to impress — Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson. Jonathan Cooper is a big time athlete. Watching the running backs perform in the forty yard dash is always entertaining. Eddie Lacy won’t compete and this year lacks the ‘star’ power of previous seasons. Still, it’s a decent crop of runners and I’ll be keeping a close eye on Montee Ball, Andre Ellington, Giovani Bernard, Stepfan Taylor, Joseph Randle, Zach Stacy, Ray Graham, Rex Burkhead, Jawan Jamison and Jonathan Franklin.

Small school prospects

A few unknown types put themselves in the public eye during the combine and it shouldn’t be ignored. A case in point — guys like Mark LeGree didn’t do a great deal in the pro’s, but a good combine placed him on Seattle’s radar. John Schneider and Pete Carroll appear happy to take on the occasional project from a smaller programme. It’s difficult for us amateurs to identify those players due to limited access to live coverage and game tape. But you never know who might emerge in Indianapolis. Kip made a post highlighting some potential targets earlier in the week.

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 20th February

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

The mocks we do here generally look at situations. ‘Who will be available at #25 if a certain team drafts a certain player.’ You know the drill by now.

This weeks projection is different. Sure, there are scenarios we can point to — such as Ziggy Ansah going in the top ten or two quarterbacks going early. But the idea this week is to compare how things look before and after the combine. So I’ve tried to make a projection based on how I see things unfolding in Indianapolis. Who moves up the board. Who falls. We’ll see how accurate it is next week.

There’s no revelation with Seattle’s pick. Several defensive lineman are already off the board. In this projection it basically comes down to how much the Seahawks are determined to fill their biggest need. Is a 25-year-old Sylvester Williams the answer? Or a big body like Johnathan Hankins that offers no pass rush? Or are they more likely to wait until later? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility Jonathan Jenkins drops to #56. Terrance Cody was the 57th pick in 2010. I don’t see any pressure to add a new defensive tackle in round one unless one of the superior interior pass rushers falls to #25.

A few people will groan at the selection of Khaseem Greene and this is the third mock where I’ve had him going to the Seahawks. He ticks a lot of the boxes this team goes for. Turnover machine? Check. High character? Check. Plus athleticism? Check. He also fills a position of need and he’s the kind of ‘not talked about’ player I can just see John Schneider and Pete Carroll drafting in the first. And hey, if they want to improve the pass rush and third down defense — Greene will be an asset in nickel formations (replacing K.J. Wright?), he’s adept covering underneath and sniffing out screens plus he’s a good blitzer.

Improving the defensive line is the greatest need (and free agency could still provide a solution there) but I don’t think this team will fight their draft board. I suspect they’ll take a player they like, not a player they kind of like to fill a superior need. Nobody will be complaining if Greene manages the same kind of impact as Bobby Wagner. Perhaps he’s not a big enough name to get people excited? That shouldn’t matter. He’s a playmaker. Simple as that.

I also wouldn’t rule out the Seahawks re-signing Alan Branch. If they want to keep size up front and avoid a big free agent splash on a Henry Melton or Randy Starks, they might attempt to keep Branch while adding a situational rusher to the rotation via the middle rounds.

One final note before we get into it. Apparently Keenan Allen won’t work out at the combine. It’s not a major surprise — he wasn’t expected to perform particularly well. The thing is, there’s nothing positive about this news. Either it’s another injury complaint (they’re totting up now) or he’s hiding. So while the rest of the media focuses and complains about Matt Barkley not throwing to uncovered receivers in shorts, maybe it’s time to start questioning Keenan Allen’s credentials as the sure-fire first round lock many believe he’s going to be? Kawann Short also won’t work out due to injury and will host a personal pro-day on March 26th.

First round

#1 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
They desperately need a quarterback but if Branden Albert’s back issues are legit, this becomes more likely.
#2 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Floyd has a ton of upside. He could play the one or three technique in Gus Bradley’s scheme.
#3 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
Limitless potential. The combine will be friendly to Dion Jordan.
#4 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
If they can’t get at Floyd or Jordan, they might settle for Fisher.
#5 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Lions could use an edge rusher, especially if they lose Cliff Avril.
#6 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)
May just enough upside to get into this range.
#7 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
After the fiasco of 2012, don’t expect Arizona to do anything but draft a quarterback here.
#8 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
They have some nice pieces in Buffalo but they must find a quarterback.
#9 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Good luck stopping a three man front of Lotulelei, Coples and Wilkerson.
#10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Prototype three-technique.
#11 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
A pure technician.
#12 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Incredible potential, can have an immediate impact.
#13 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback prospect. This would be a steal.
#14 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
This will help Carolina prosper in the run game, which they haven’t done for a while.
#15 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
He needs to flash at the combine.
#16 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Vaccaro would be a nice addition to St. Louis’ defense.
#17 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
This could be Pittsburgh’s biggest need.
#18 Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
Monte Kiffin’s defense usually includes a good interior pass rusher.
#19 D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
With a lot of the top defensive players off the board, they could look to the offensive line.
#20 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Assuming they get a tackle in free agency, this is step two in improving the offensive line.
#21 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Someone will draft this guy in round one. Book it.
#22 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Brilliant tight end prospect.
#23 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
The spinal stenosis issue could lead to a fall. Someone will take a shot.
#24 Travis Frederick (G, Wisconsin)
More than anything they need to bolster the offensive line.
#25 Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
I can envisage people in Seattle’s front office banging the table for this guy.
#26 Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
Donald Driver’s retired, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are free agents. They could go for a pass catcher here.
#27 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
He’d be a perfect compliment to Andre Johnson.
#28 Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
After a rough ride in the playoffs, the Broncos could boost their secondary here.
#29 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
Cornerback is a need for the Patriots.
#30 Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
An ideal replacement for the ageing Michael Turner.
#31 Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
More size up front for the Niners.
#32 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Tough shoes to fill, but the Ravens often look for value in round one.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
#34 Kansas City – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#35 Philadelphia – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#36 Detroit – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#37 Cincinnati – Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#38 Arizona – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#39 New York Jets – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
#40 Tennessee – Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#41 Buffalo – Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
#42 Miami – Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
#43 Tampa Bay – Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#44 Carolina – Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
#45 San Diego – Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
#46 St. Louis – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)
#47 Dallas – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#48 Pittsburgh – John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#50 Chicago – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#51 Washington – Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)
#52 Minnesota – Datone Jones (DT, UCLA)
#53 Cincinnati – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#54 Miami – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
#55 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#56 Seattle – Steadman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
#57 Houston – Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)
#58 Denver – Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International)
#59 New England – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#60 Atlanta – Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#61 San Francisco – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#62 Baltimore – Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)

Projected Seahawks third round pick: Jordan Hill (DT, Penn State)

The year of the small school player

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Drugs er bad, mmkay?

#92 Armonty Bryant

In a year where there are seemingly no conspicuous talent dropoff points, perhaps nothing defines the parity level of the 2013 draft more than it’s remarkably strong class of small school prospects.  Typically, these kind of players are late round picks or go undrafted.  John Schneider has dabbled with small schools from time to time- spending a late pick on Mark Legree and signing Josh Portis in free agency.  Occasionally you’ll see a Brian Quick or Jared Veldheer grace the top 3 rounds, but it’s hardly a regular occurrence.

Given the incredibly unsettled nature of the first four or five rounds this year, it’s a prime opportunity for small school players to break into the conversation.  Already, we’re hearing a lot of insider talk that this is exactly the case.  First, it was scouts raving about Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton at around the time the Senior Bowl happened.  Patton went from a likely late pick to a likely 2nd rounder.  You have Robert Alford and Jordan Mills who I highlighted yesterday.  Many scouts believe there is “no doubt” that Alford will be a 2nd round pick, as he’s expected to put on a show at the NFL Combine.  There is talk that Mills could go in the 3rd round.

And then you have Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan- a player who is already considered a 1st round lock and could go top ten.  Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien is ranked as the second best strong safety by NFLDraftscout.com and has a real chance to be a top 50 pick.  Cyprien’s teammate, defensive end Tourek Williams, has received glowing mention from some circles as well (you can even find two full game compilations of him on youtube).  A 340 pound defensive tackle out of Missouri Southern named Brandon Williams turned some heads when he flashed dominance on the final day of Senior Bowl practices, and some (sources from Rotoworld.com) have now said that his stock has risen as high as the early 2nd round.

One of the fastest rising tight ends is Vance McDonald out of Rice.  He’s drawing comparisons to the Gronk, whether that’s fair or not.  It is now widely believed that he will be off the board in the top sixty picks, barring a disaster at the combine.  Perhaps you’ve heard of Zac Dysert?  He’s out of Miami of Ohio.  Western Kentucky’s Quanterus Smith is among the better LEO options in the middle rounds.  And then there’s Marshall’s Aaron Dobson, who’s slowly been working his way up the pecking order of wide receivers and may find himself going in the first two rounds.

But by far my favorite of these players are two that have been talked about very little in the media, and who have completely unpredictable draft stock.  And as luck would have it, these players play positions of major need for Seattle:  pass rusher and wide receiver.

You’ve probably read the name “Tony Pauline” quite a few times on this blog.  The Sports Illustrated writer runs draftinsider.net and has been a favorite of both Rob and I for a few years now.  He gets information straight from anonymous scouts and executives, which has proven remarkably accurate.  Last year for example, most people thought that Courtney Upshaw and Zach Brown were likely mid to late 1st round picks, until Pauline revealed a consensus big board from several NFL GMs that listed neither on the top 32, and the data seemed to indicate that Seattle would have a real shot at Brown even at the 43rd overall pick.  Upshaw turned into an early 2nd round pick by the Ravens, and Brown lasted until the Titans at the 52nd overall selection.

As the Senior Bowl was wrapping up, Tony Pauline led off one of his updates speaking of a “super sleeper” at wide receiver.

The name making the rounds in the scouting community as one of the biggest sleepers at the receiver position is Courtney Gardner of Sierra College.  The 6-foot, 3-inch/220lb pass catcher was expected to play for Oklahoma in 2013 but opted for the NFL draft after academic “difficulties”.  We hear scouts have been raving about the physical skills Gardner brings to the field.  Besides his large frame the big pass catcher also has the speed (10.7 sec in the 100 meters) to match.  Even college coaches in the area are awed by his ability on the field but focusing at the task at hand seems to be an issue.

Gardner’s compilation video:

While it’s clear that Gardner still has a lot to learn, you can see where the scouting community’s enthusiasm is coming from.  Gardner has the movement talent of someone like Golden Tate or Percy Harvin, but in a 6’3″, 220 pound body.  He claims to have run a 4.38 forty (unofficially of course), and the speed on tape certainly seems to back that claim up.  However, he comes from pretty much the lowest level of competition possible, a junior college, and struggled with academics for a long time, which perhaps hints at a lack of work ethic (especially since it was a two year degree type college).  Curiously, Gardner was not given an invitation to the combine.  That may indicate that Gardner is destined to go undrafted, even if his tools are the stuff of legend.

Finally, I’ll end with the guy in the picture.  Armonty Bryant.

I found it interesting that when asked if he’d been in contact with any NFL teams, he mentioned several, but there was one that leapt to his mind instantly.  You guessed it- the Seahawks.

Bryant made headlines for his dominating display in that Texas vs. Nation game by the way, which featured prominent players from major Division I schools.

Bryant has 35.5 inch arms, good size, undeniable athleticism, excellent pass rush technique, and a knack for getting to the quarterback.  In a recent interview Bryant mentioned that “people keep telling him” that he reminds them of Demarcus Ware.

Yet despite giving a pretty good camera interview and seeming like a good kid, he was busted last season for dealing drugs- during practice.  That’s about as flagrant of a criminal red flag as it gets, and that coupled with his coming from division II could double whammy his draft stock.  Regardless, Bryant remains an extremely intriguing prospect.  Like Russell Wilson last year, he deserves a post all to himself (which I never got around to writing last year, d’oh!).  I’ll probably wait until after the combine for that one.  In the meantime, this is a player to keep an eye on in Indy this weekend.  I included Bryant’s highlight reel below.

Steadman Bailey is really underrated

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

For me, Steadman Bailey and DeAndre Hopkins are competing to be the best receiver in this class. And it’s a close call.

This isn’t a class filled with 6-4 receivers who can dominate in the air and still get downfield. You won’t see any A.J. Green’s or Julio Jones’ going in the top ten. Keenan Allen is the highest rated ‘bigger’ receiver and he’s only 6-2. He’s also coming off an injury and isn’t expected to have a great combine (he could run in the high 4.5’s, maybe even 4.6’s).

What we do have this year are smaller, more technical and gritty receivers. Hopkins runs crisp routes, catches the ball with his hands, is the definition of clutch and is still capable of making downfield plays. Markus Wheaton is a speed merchant with better physical skills than you’d expect and he looks like a Mike Wallace clone. Robert Woods is a playmaker at 6-1 who can be used in a number of ways.

And then there’s Steadman Bailey. He’s only 5-10 and 188lbs. He’s not the type of player people get overly excited about because everything’s about size these days. How big are you? How fast are you? People should be getting excited about this guy though.

For starters I think he’ll run faster than anyone expects at the combine this week. There are a few example in the tape above where he gets in behind a defense or just shows a great burst coming out of his break to get open. Like Hopkins, he’s a savvy route runner who gets open through technical ability and precision rather than relying on strength and raw speed. He makes difficult catches look easy, he can get downfield, he’s a competitive player who deserves a lot more respect than he’s getting.

I admit I underestimated him to start with. It’s easy to do at that size. You also always have a degree of scepticism when you see this Dana Holgorsen offense. It’s a prolific, extreme spread offense. They used Geno Smith in a more orthodox manner than Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, but there’s still a lot of air-raid concepts — steep drop back, double the size of the field and exploit a strong arm on underneath and crossing routes. Then you watch West Virginia closely and realise most of the manufactured stuff goes to Tavon Austin. Bailey is running pretty standard routes and making play after play.

In the three games logged in the tape above, Bailey makes 30 catches. I’ve watched it through twice now and didn’t see any drops. In fact, he looked extremely comfortable making each and every one of those thirty grabs.

People are going to make obvious comparisons to Golden Tate based purely on size. However, Bailey is much more technically accomplished than Tate was at Notre Dame. He’s a better route runner and a better catcher with superb control. Even during his last year in college where he won the Biletnikoff, Tate still looked like a converted running back a lot of the time.

I think he appealed to Pete Carroll and John Schneider because despite his size he ran well at the combine and showed a real competitive nature on the field. Tate wasn’t the biggest, but he played above his size. He’d win jump balls against taller defensive backs. He had a thick frame and some YAC potential. It pretty much took him three seasons to ‘get it’ in the league, but suddenly he looks the part. Maybe it’s the Russell Wilson factor? Whatever it is, Golden Tate is now an asset for Seattle and will probably continue his upward trend.

The Seahawks have been looking for another big receiver for a while. They drafted Kris Durham then brought in Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. None worked out and I suspect they’ll continue that search this off-season. I don’t expect them to go out and keep adding smaller receivers — they already have two with Tate and Doug Baldwin. I think they’ll only consider a shorter target if he’s competitive in the air and makes up for a lack of size in several different ways. For me, Steadman Bailey is so polished, so emphatic — his size doesn’t matter. And he should be an option for the Seahawks on pure BPA in round two if he’s still on the board. Depth is needed at receiver. I’m just not sure he makes it to #56.

Look at the first play in the video above where he makes a difficult over-the-shoulder touchdown grab in tight coverage. He makes a similar score at 2:47, showing superb control on the deep route. There are several examples where he presents his hands to the quarterback and plucks the ball out of the air. He constantly keeps moving to try and help out the QB and provide a target. It’s all effortless.

The Baylor tape is influenced by the fact the Bears decided to plant several scarecrows as defensive backs for the game. Some of the blown coverage situations are laughable. There’s also some superb plays between Smith and Bailey – including the fade for a touchdown at 3:37. The touchdown at 5:27 is a thing of beauty. Bailey fakes giving up on the route to take away the double coverage, then explodes back into fifth gear to make the scoring grab. Not many receivers show that level of awareness to get open. It’s crazy good.

His performance against Texas was a masterclass. It starts at 5:44 with a difficult touchdown catch on an underneath route in traffic. If that was tough, check out the score at 6:44. How does he catch that football? He’s diving to the back of the end zone, his body isn’t in an ideal position to make the catch. And yet he completes it while also escaping tight coverage. His third score against the Longhorns again shows great adjustment to the ball, avoiding traffic to make what looks like an easy catch, but it probably isn’t.

Some of Bailey’s success can be put down to familiarity with Geno Smith. They went to high school together and years of chemistry has developed going into the pro’s. Whichever team drafts Geno Smith really should be busting a gut to get Bailey too. I suspect they’ll just continue to produce even at the next level. But let’s not take anything away from these two — they both deliver as individuals and it’s time Bailey started to receive more attention.

The Seahawks don’t necessarily need another Golden Tate style receiver, but you aren’t drafting Bailey to fit a mould. You’d be drafting him because he’s better than most other receivers in this class, presents terrific value and will be a polished receiver at the next level. He’ll compete against bigger defensive backs. He’ll be a playmaker. So even if this team wants to get bigger at receiver, I still think they’ll have a hard time passing on Steadman Bailey if he’s there in round two.

Let us know what you think. There’ll be an updated mock draft tomorrow.

Note: After I completed this piece, tape against Oklahoma and Syracuse was also made available. So here it is…

Seahawks “interested” in two off the radar prospects

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Take it for what it’s worth- the Seahawks have been connected to two little known small school prospects in the past few days.  Seattle showed interest in many players they did not draft last year, and often teams show interest in the players they don’t want, while never talking about the ones they do.  They did interview Russell Wilson at the Senior Bowl last year, and there were reports that they showed interest in players like Korey Toomer and Jeremy Lane last year, which was the only reason I even knew enough to mention them before that draft.

One of these players of interest is a 5’10” corner from Southeastern Louisiana by the name of Robert Alford.  You can watch his tape above.  That a player like this even has a 9 minute compilation video on youtube is pretty amazing.  I really have to commend youtube users for working overtime this year.  It is greatly appreciated.

Here is the article, and the quote that links Alford to Seattle:

“There’s no question he’s going to blow the Combine out of the water,” Golding said. “He’s a Combine guy. As far as running and agility and drills, he’ll be one of the top corners if not the top corner.”

Golding’s concern was how Alford would perform at the Senior Bowl with a totally new defense and new responsibilities. The reports were positive. Many NFL scouts are telling the coach that there’s “no doubt” Alford will be a second-round pick. Seattle, Cincinnati and Baltimore have particularly shown interest.

Alford plays far off the football, struggles with blocks and at times lacks physicality.  He wasn’t challenged very much though, and most of his tackles were on screens or passes that targeted other defensive players.  I hate the term “raw”, because it’s both vague and overused, but I think it’s safe to say that Alford isn’t yet impressive.  Or as Pete Carroll would probably think, Alford’s best football is still ahead of him.

Judging athleticism from a video isn’t a perfect science.  “Sneaky fast” isn’t just a cliche, field speed can be notoriously tough to quantify.  Consider Leon Washington, who doesn’t explode so much as glide, and yet he is one of the most prolific return men in NFL history.  His speed is real, even if he looks like he’s running slower than he’s capable of.  Alford has a similar gliding style of acceleration and speed, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s an effective kick returner himself, and his opponents know it.

I’m not excited about Alford, but I am interested to see what he does at the combine.  I don’t think Seattle would take a corner in the top two rounds, but it never hurts to do you homework.

The other player connected to Seattle was right tackle Jordan Mills from Louisiana Tech.  This information was second hand and came from the twitter page of Scott Bischoff.

Hard to know what “earlier than you would think” means exactly.  Mill’s stock ranges from 3rd round to 5th round.  It’s not much, but below is a short video that shows 3 plays by Jordan Mills.

Obviously, I can’t scout from so little, but physically he reminds me of James Carpenter- very similar size and more of a mauler than an athlete.  Shows pretty good technique on the cut block and uses his arms well.  Feet seem slow, but then again he’s up against Damontre Moore in this clip.  He plays for the same team as Quinton Patton, so it could be worth checking out his pass protection in those videos.

Of course, it’s lying season, so it’s hard to tell if this interest is real at all.  I tend to lean towards “legit” ever so slightly, if only because we’re talking about a classic “coach him up” raw athlete at corner who fits Pete well, and a bulldozer at right tackle seems to fit Tom Cable’s modus operandi.  Where they actually end up drafted, who knows?

If nothing else, we can probably now deduce that corner and tackle are areas the Seahawks are looking at.  Either they really are interested in these players, or they are creating a smoke screen to distract from the players at those positions that they really like.  If they wanted to distract us with false interest, they wouldn’t use a corner to distract from a safety or a linebacker.  The tactic goes beyond simple deception- it’s main purpose is to help encourage players they are less interested in get selected ahead of players they are more interested in for a given position.

Last year John Schneider talked up Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, and even Austin Davis and Chandler Harnish, but rarely if ever talked about Russell Wilson.  I even said at the time that I thought that Schneider was probably talking up those players to help them get drafted before Wilson or Cousins.

It’s possible we could be seeing the same thing here- with Pete and John trying to muddy an already murky draft pool.

Or, we could be looking at two future Seahawks.  I guess we’ll find out.